After the successful resurrection of 35mm Ektachrome, Kodak announced it would also bring back 120 and large formats. Later we even found out 4×5 large format sheets were also going to be released. At the time of writing in the middle of January 2020, we are living in the twilight zone of it being–or-just-not-yet–being on the shelves to purchase.
Being a huge fan of slide film this was the best possible news. The first thing I thought was to shoot some old, expired EKTACHROME I had in my wine cooler as part cleaning-out and part tribute to the new release..and to find out for myself why it was good news that fresh film was coming back.
I had a few rolls of 220 EKTACHROME 100SW and one box with 10 sheets of 4×5 Professional Plus. Both were expired beyond at least 15 years. Lucky enough, I found out that slide film ages very well or not much at all. Except for a little blueish hue (which is easy to adjust after scanning), all is well, the film speed is also more or less the same.
I did not own a 4×5 camera yet so I had to get myself one, something I was planning for some time anyway. I found a Cambo with a 150mm f/5.6 Schneider-Kreuznach. I did not test it, I just took my Sekonic meter, loaded all ten sheets in film holders, asked a model and checked Accuweather for the one hour of sun/intermittent clouds in the middle of Dutch winter.
I lost one sheet because the dark slide found its way behind the sheet when I returned it after my exposure, leaving it on the outside of the film holder. I lost another shot to bad focus (it’s very hard for the subject not to move for the 30 seconds it takes to shove in the film holder). Anyway, 8 out of 10 sheets came out perfect. I was pretty surprised with the result from my first large format shoot.
I developed the film in my home lab in a 4×5 Jobo tank using Tetenal chemistry and the Cinestill TCS-1000 39 degrees (a barista once told me pouring liquid is reduces temperature by about 1 degree), I always rotate for 10/20 sec extra to account for the temperature drop during the development. And that’s it: you take out the sheets, hold them in front of the lightbox and you see a micro-world in extreme detail right in front of you. No inverted colors, no darks being lights. Pure slide film happiness.
The same goes for the 220 film, which I shot a month earlier. I used my trusted Mamiya Universal with a 6×7 film holder. I had stronger sunshine and more contrast during that shoot. Highlights blow out easily so you have to meter for them and more shadows sink within the darkness of positive film. I love this kind of chiaroscuro effect, something old Dutch painters used a lot. But it is something you have to want in order to shoot with this film in strong contrasty lighting because there is no way around them.
So here is a full list with (my) reasons why Kodak bringing EKTACHROME to our medium and large format cameras is an awesome thing.
- Slide film has a unique color palette which calls for the high quality of medium and large format.
- You can buy a 6×6 slide projector and have a true analog HD experience on the wall.
- There is nothing like holding the micro-world of a fresh positive frame in your hand after you develop it or after you get it from the lab.
- Silde film has a distinct look from negative film, deeper blacks, more saturation. So, if you shoot analog to get different results from digital pictures, slide film will get you there.
- With medium and large format Ektachrome there is no grain in the foreground or ‘fussy analog look’. You might as well use them for professional jobs where the results need to cover a building, saving on +30k of digital PhaseOne gear.
- Medium and large format photography is the original quality before history went down the path of 35mm and ended in the mess of mobile phone sensors. It’s good that we can balance this with some larger slide film and sheets.
There is only one thing left to do: it is currently impossible to print slide film without scanning it digitally first. The paper and chemistry to do so was discontinued long ago.
So ILFORD or Kodak listen up, we need this!! The resurrection of Cibachrome/Ilfochrome.
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